When it comes to the "dos and don'ts" of food and dental health, you're probably already familiar with the worst offenders. Soda pop, sugary candies, staining drinks, acidic fruits and chewing ice can all wreak havoc on the appearance and integrity of your teeth. However, just as there are foods to avoid when it comes to maintaining a healthy mouth, there are also those that contribute to a strong, bright smile. We've put together seven of the best foods to help maintain your oral health.
- Milk and cheese - and other foods high in calcium play an important role in the strengthening of teeth and bones and remineralization of tooth enamel. (Remineralization is the process of minerals being redeposited back onto the surface of the tooth after they have been worn away by acids.)
- Chicken and fish - and other foods high in protein are the best sources for phosphorous, another mineral vital in protecting and rebuilding tooth enamel.
- Crunchy fruits and vegetables - such as apples, carrots, cucumbers, and pears are great for your teeth for several reasons. First, they have a high water content, which dilutes sugars and the negative impact they yield in your mouth. Second, the act of chewing is a natural producer of saliva and saliva is the body's best defence to wash away food particles and bacteria. Finally, Christine D. Wu, a pediatric dentistry researcher has found that the process of vigorous chewing to break down crunchy foods is also a benefit to tooth health. The movement that comes from this crunching "may disturb dental plaque and serve as a cleaning mechanism." Wu said.
- Strawberries - and other foods high in vitamin C like dark leafy greens, bell peppers and kiwis are important for gum health. Vitamin C is necessary for your body to produce collagen, a key protein when it comes to the strength of your gums. This vitamin also plays an important role in promoting healing and can help mend bleeding and unhealthy gum tissue resulting from gingivitis and periodontal disease.
- Fatty fishes - such as tuna and salmon are good food source of Vitamin D. According to the Vitamin D Council: "Research shows that vitamin D may help reduce the risk of dental caries in infants and younger children. Studies have shown that children with dental caries have lower levels of vitamin D." Ongoing research is testing the effectiveness of vitamin D in fighting cavities, as well as its ability to promote oral health through increasing calcium uptake. Additional resources for vitamin D include fortified milk, some types of orange juice and supplements.
- Sugar free gum - As discussed above, the act of chewing promotes saliva production. Popping in a piece of sugar free gum is a great, convenient way to get the effects of increased saliva (for washing away of bacteria and remineralization of teeth) without adding any sugar or calories to your diet. Choosing a brand that also contains xylitol is an added bonus for the health of your teeth. Xylitol has also been shown to inhibit the growth of some kinds of cavity causing bacteria in your mouth.
- Drink tap water - The Academy of General Dentistry reports that more than 144 million Americans now drink fluoridated tap water. Besides just washing away harmful bacteria and acids (an already great benefit that drinking adequate amounts of water brings to your oral health) the addition of fluoride provides even greater advantages. Fluoride is one of the most important minerals when it comes to preventing tooth decay. Fluoride makes your teeth more resistant to acid attacks stemming from sugars, plaque and bacteria in the mouth. It can even reverse early tooth decay.